David Williams wine journalist at famous British daily newspaper Guardian has selected three gorgeous Tbilvino Qvevris, Jakeli Khashmi Saperavi and Pheasant’s Tears Saperavi wines from Georgia.
With a wine tradition that stretches back 8,000 years and more than 500 indigenous grapes to choose from.
Tbilvino Qvevris, Kakheti, Georgia 2015 (£10, Marks & Spencer) There are some wines I’ve only started to love after visiting the place they’re made. One is sherry, which made so much more sense once I’d had a glass of chilled manzanilla with a plate of jámon in a bar in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. But there are other wines, from places I’ve never been, that give me a bad case of wanderlust. Georgian wines always have that effect on me. They’re so different, so much their own thing, I start thinking, what sort of place makes wines like this? They’re not especially easy to come by in the UK, but Marks & Sparks has a rather brilliant example of orange-tinted dry white wine aged in qvevri, the traditional Georgian clay vessel, with a subtly chewy, moreishly spicy character.
Jakeli Khashmi Saperavi, Kakheti, Georgia 2011 (£18.50, Meadowdale Wines) A bottle of red Georgian wine sent to me by the rather brilliant Isle of Wight-based organic specialist online retailer Meadowdale Wines was the most recent wine to get me idly browsing for flights to Tbilisi. It’s made from the local grape separavi, which produces deeply coloured wines with a kind of wild, almost untamed intensity of tannin, finger-staining fruit and acidity that has very few peers. If you’ve enjoyed some of the more unrestrained wines made from tannat in Madiran, southwest France, you’ll be getting close to the appeal of Jakeli’s example, which is one of those wines that evolves in the glass, with black cherry and blackberry, violets, herbs, rosehip and an almost febrile acidity.
Pheasant’s Tears Saperavi, Kakheti, Georgia 2015 (from £22, Highbury Vintners;Tannico; Just in Cases; AG Wines; Les Caves) One of the leading lights of the modern revival of Georgia’s 8,000-year-old winemaking tradition is the American-Georgian co-production Pheasant’s Tears. The qvevri amphora play a big part in the winemaking here, as does a commitment to using as many of the 500-strong array of indigenous grape varieties as possible. Winemaker Gela Patalashvili makes an equally arresting Separavi: intensely sappy, crunchy and curranty with a nutty streak that I imagine works well with the walnuts that crop up so often in Georgian cuisine. The whites – or rather, since they spend so long in contact with skins in qvevri, orange – are no less savoury and rewarding, not least the fabulously aromatic yet grippy, dry Pheasant’s Tears Tsolikauri 2015 (£22.99, Highbury Vintners).